§ Mr. McNamara
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the reason for the delay by the Transfer Desk in his Department in transferring a letter regarding an immigration matter sent to him by the hon. Member for Hull, North on 5 September; what is the(a) average, (b) shortest and (c) greatest length of time taken for a letter to be transferred from his Department to another department; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Straw
I apologise for the delay in dealing with the letter sent by the hon. Member. This was referred to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate immediately upon its receipt in the Home Office on 5 September. That Directorate subsequently advised that the correspondence would more appropriately be dealt with by the Joint Entry Clearance Unit. Unfortunately, the transfer to that Unit was not completed until 25 October. This was due to a recent and regrettable failure of our normal procedures, which we have since rectified.
Prior to that failure, in the current year. of all the letters requiring transfer to other Government Departments, 54 per cent. were transferred within five working days; 616W 15 per cent. in 5 to 10 days; 13 per cent. in 10 to 20 days and 18 per cent. in over 20 days. The average was 13 days. I do not regard these periods as acceptable.